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Legislators hear concerns about new law to curb prescription drug abuse

July 23, 2012 | | Comments 0

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – State lawmakers say they are open to possibly making changes in the new controversial law designed to crack down on Kentucky’s increasing problem with prescription drug abuse.

A legislative oversight committee on House Bill 1, which a special legislative session approved this year and Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law, heard Monday from a Lexington emergency room doctor who said the measure and state regulations for it are “overreaching and will restrict access by legitimate citizens to much needed relief of pain and suffering.”

Dr. Steven Stack, who works at St. Joseph East in Lexington, said doctors “share the commitments of solving the drug abuse problem,” but the state legislature needs to make changes in the new law.

A key feature in the law requires the state’s tracking of prescriptions to keep tabs on doctors who might be overprescribing
them. It calls for use of the Kentucky All-Substance Prescription Electronic Reporting System, or KASPER, to monitor prescriptions issued by a health provider.

Stack contended that an 80-year-old woman who comes to an emergency room for a broken wrist “doesn’t need a KASPER report” or extensive counseling on why she is to take pain medication as the law requires.

“There are innumerable examples like this under a law that will require enormous extra work on the health community,” said Stack, who said he was only representing himself at the committee meeting.

The committeeheard Monday from state officials involved in operating KASPER and representatives of various health boards who discussed emergency regulations they have submitted to the state.

After the meeting, Beshear said the state has worked closely with the health boards to ensure that the regulations, which he has signed, uphold the intent of HB 1.

“Everyone’s ultimate goal is to reduce the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs, and these regulations are a necessary step in effecting that change,” he said. “The regulations are built to protect legitimate patient needs and proper prescribing habits. Only those who abuse the system have anything to fear from these regulations.”

Beshear is to hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss implementation of the new law.

Sen. Jimmy Hidgon, R-Lebanon, is one of six lawmakers on the law’s oversight committee. He said he expects the legislature will make changes in the new law in the 2013 General Assembly that begins in January.

“This oversight committee is a good process for all parties involved to raise their concerns,” he said.

Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, is a co-chair of the committee. He said it’s too early to say what changes might be made in the new law.

Most of the ”acrimony” now over the law, Tilley said, is on the intent of the legislation and its emergency administrative regulations, particularly what specific drugs must be monitored.

Filed Under: KY General AssemblySteve Beshear

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